I live in a safe town in a relatively safe house where I know at least some of my neighbors are safe people. But I live next to a downtown area and a small pocket of poverty, which sometimes feels unsafe. A single wall and 2-lane road divides my house from the beginning of what feels unsafe to me, though the actual pocket of poverty is a 1/2 mile away.
I am walking my dog in the dark tonight and have felt jumpy all day. Every unexpected sound — the grumpy old man yelling at his dog to stop barking, the engines revving, the “fuck him/her/this/that” flying out of a chronic yeller roaming his front porch—startled me. The smell of marijuana. The beer cans and syringes along the canal. The rest of the trash in the streets, that I try to pick up as often as possible. I realize I’m not breathing and clenching my jaw so hard it’s frozen that way.
It doesn’t matter that in college I carried mace to and from my night classes because I lived in a high-crime area. My boyfriend at the time was robbed at gun point, blocks away from my apartment. It doesn’t matter that I’ve walked alone at night in countries I didn’t speak the language. That I frequently rode the DC metro drunk in early morning hours. That I got lost in Barcelona after public transportation had shut down, and walked aimlessly for hours until I found my way back—I almost saw the sunrise. I wasn’t scared then. That I’ve run home drunk, run late at night, run way too early in the morning, run around people passed out, homeless, strung out, whatever—I needed to run. I was invincible. I had every wall up, always.
It feels like my body has decided to be afraid now for everything then, and I can barely breathe.